Pulling Together

By | June 25th, 2018

“We were able to target multiple demographics within the youth sector,” says Club Manager Casey Newman.

To keep kids and families engaged with its 4th of July celebration, River Oaks CC organized a race in which participants constructed their own boats using just cardboard and duct tape.

To keep kids and families engaged with its 4th of July celebration, River Oaks Country Club organized a race for which participants made their own boats, using just cardboard and duct tape.

Like most modern clubs, the members of River Oaks Country Club in Houston, Texas are skewing younger and younger, with more families joining to take advantage of the club’s offerings. With this infusion of youth, the River Oaks staff was tasked with developing programming that helped families integrate. “We were looking for a way to incorporate family-oriented activities into our normal summer events,” says Club Manager Casey Newman, CCM.

Newly hired Youth Activities Coordinator Tyler Agee, who had previously worked with YMCA programs, suggested the club put together the River Oaks Regatta Cardboard Boat Race in conjunction with its 4th of July party.

Families were invited to build boats using just cardboard and duct tape at home, and then bring the vessels to the club pool and race each other, propelled by either paddles or hands. “By having families work on their boats at home, they were able to put as much work into them as they wanted, and many took multiple weekends to put them together,” Newman says.

River Oaks provided paddles and, if needed, helped participants dispose of their boats after the races. River Oaks promoted the event through the newsletter, and word of mouth played a large role as well, as summer camp registration took place around the same time. “Tyler got the word out by having conversations with groups and families,” Newman says.

THE GOAL: Add more family-oriented activities to existing summer events at River Oaks CC.

THE PLAN: Organize the River Oaks Regatta Cardboard Boat Race, prompting participating families to work together to build boats using only cardboard and duct tape that they then used to paddle through the pool in a race.

THE PAYOFF: A fun, unique event that drew a crowd of 200 while generating excitement and friendly competition among member families.

Before the race, staff put together a list of rules and regulations, including the size requirements and limits for boats, and which materials were permitted. Vessels were required to be completely enclosed, or permit the crew to remain fully on top, without dangling extremities. Teams could include up to four people.

“We were able to target multiple demographics within the youth sector,” Newman says, noting that participants included groups of kids as well as kidand-parent pairings

On the day of the event, lane ropes were set up in the pool, extra lifeguards were on hand, and teams were announced via the PA system. Two hundred members gathered to watch the races. Each team checked in their boats, and then raced in two regular heats, with the winners advancing to the championship heat. If the boat sunk, the team was out.

To keep things interesting, first-, second- and third-place finishers earned trophies and ribbons, and additional awards were given for best design and club spirit (an honor that went to a boat named “On the ROCCs,” a nod to the club’s abbreviated name). There was also the “Gilligan award” for the boat that sank.

The race itself, which took about six weeks to plan, took less than an hour to complete. It took place during the afternoon of the 4th of July festivities, which began at noon and extended into the evening with fireworks. For River Oaks, the success of the regatta was notable because it gave parents and kids something to do together, rather than offering completely separate activities.

“It was a great way to reinforce the place that youth have in our club, while still keeping parents involved,” Newman says. “This was truly something hands-on that kept the core family component together.

“We’re a pretty traditional club, and we do a lot of cool, out-of-the-box things, but tend to repeat the same events year after year,” she adds. “We weren’t sure how receptive members would be, but we were pleasantly surprised by how excited families were.”

CCV put members to work relocating equipment to its temporary fitness center location with a “traveling workout.”


When a major construction project for a new Fitness and Racquet Sports facility caused The Country Club of Virginia (CCV), Richmond, Va., to move its existing Fitness Center activities to a temporary location, that didn’t keep members from getting in their daily workouts. In fact, CCV used the need to relocate both space and equipment to create a special “Putting Members to Work” Workout, with “traveling workout” exercises that included pushing weights and other heavy equipment on carts and sleds, and walking steps or taking lunges while carrying smaller weights to their new location.

CCV created whimsical walking-path signage to encourage members to maintain fitness during construction that limited parking options.


When a major construction project at The Country Club of Virginia (CCV), Richmond, Va., limited parking options and required walking on gravel paths to get to locations on the property, the CCV staff created whimsical Walking Path Signage to help entertain members and encourage them to maintain fitness activity during the disruption. A 1980s-themed poster featuring Olivia Newton-John, for example, proclaimed, “Let’s get physical…your warm-up starts now!” Another showed a 1950s-style housewife on the phone saying, “It’s easy to talk the talk, but can you walk the walk?” (See photo, above right.) The positive feedback from membership was overwhelming, the club staff reports, with many suggesting ideas for additional signs on the path, to further help turn a construction challenge into a unique and memorable experience

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